Internet influenced offline retail highs & lows

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I’ve seen two news stories over the weekend, one that marketplaces like Amazon are killing offline retailers and another that eBay was an incubator for one of the biggest furniture retailers in the country.

Book ShopTo be honest I’m fed up with businesses blaming online marketplace such as eBay and Amazon for sounding the death knell for their businesses – the latest is a Battersea book shop in danger of closing, but in truth it’s probably more the fact that his rates have risen from £3,600 to over £15,000 in the last three years.

Of course I feel for any business owner who’s struggling, but a search on Google doesn’t find anything other than Yellow Pages style directory entries for “Bolingbroke Bookshop”. A business not embracing the Internet can’t simply lay the blame at Amazon’s door.

Oak Furniture LandHaving been slightly peeved at the bookshop story it was somewhat refreshing to read in The Telegraph that Oak Furniture Land was once an accidental eBay seller.

Having remortgaged his house and got cash in the bank for a home improvement loan he took a punt on a container of furniture on a whim. After storing it in a shed for a few months he discovered eBay and listed the lot at 99p and that was the start of the Oak Furniture Land empire.

Well worth a read, although Oak Furniture Land no longer sell on eBay, it’s a great story about how stumbling across eBay enabled a retailer to build what is now an £85m turnover business thriving in 36 retail parks up and down the country.

Interestingly according to Oak Furniture Land, the Internet isn’t markedly more attractive than retail shops. Spending a quarter of a million pounds a month on Google paid search suddenly makes the rent on retail stores quite attractive in comparison.

Are eBay and Amazon killing the high street? Possibly, but more probably they’re simply one of a multitude of factors that’s changing the high street – Certainly Bolingbroke Bookshop might do better if they had an online presence. What’s indisputable is that eBay are the sole reason that Oak Furniture Land prospered in their early days and have shops today and that has to be a good thing.

2 Responses

  1. That business rates increase is going to make it very tricky for a small business to keep on trading. Not sure Amazon has a case to answer.

  2. My postal rates/costs have risen sharply in the last few years. If the rumoured 40% rise in April is true then the high street could have a resurgence! Royal Mail is killing ecommerce.

    Maybe these massive postal rises are a government backed plot to kill off ecommerce and the associated tax fiddling?

    Much harder to fiddle taxes if you have a bricks and mortar store.

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